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Is Black Friday really dead? A 5-point checklist to prepare for an unusual holiday season
 — October 13, 2020

Ask any retailer, and they’ll tell you the word “planning” has been a mainstay in their vocabulary and processes for as long as they can remember.

But if 2020 has taught us anything – it’s that planning can go awash in an instant, posing a unique challenge for the most highly anticipated event in the calendar year: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Or “BFCM” as we’ve come to know it.  

The folks at Shopify recently asked, “Is BFCM Dead?” in a webinar with Shopify Plus retail leaders. The key takeaway? BFCM isn’t dead – but it has fundamentally changed thanks to the seismic shift in how consumers select the brands they want to interact with, how they engage with them, and ultimately how they make purchases. Gone are the simple days of “in store purchase, or online purchase.” 

But the good news is this: we’ve had just over six months to learn, adjust, and find ways to thrive despite mounting, ever-evolving challenges brought on by the pandemic. And at Heyday, we’ve always said: plan to change the plan. Retailers have always been forced to be agile and proactive when it comes to changing market dynamics and consumer behaviours. And this year, the changes you make for BFCM today can serve you well into the future.

These facts from a recent survey serve as a great strategic foundation for retailers focused on building a successful foundation for the next two months and beyond.

Fact 1: Curbside Pickup is Here to Stay 

Demand for curbside pickup has drastically increased, and will continue to grow: 31% of consumers said they tried this function for the first time between March and June. And 72% said they will choose this option more often now. Your takeaway? Make sure this, and Buy-Online, Pick-Up In-Store (BOPIS), is accounted for in your BFCM strategy.

Fact 2: Delivery Demand and Local Purchases

The desire to purchase from local businesses is up 61%, and 31% of buyers said they bought locally at the outset of the pandemic. 59% said that they used local delivery more this year in comparison to previous years. So whether you have three stores or 40, having flexible and reliable delivery options to your local customers is critical.

Fact 3: Virtual Experiences Will Continue to Make Waves

Moves to “Zooming” for just about everything are proving to be impactful. 27% of buyers, from the ages of 18-35, purchased a “digital version” of something that would typically be done in-person. This is a 63% increase from the start of the year. That means offering services “at a distance” – whatever that might look like for your retail brand – is critical to success.

Using this information, and countless learnings from our partners and clients, we’ve compiled a 5-point checklist to help you have all of your ducks in a row for BFCM & beyond.

A year dominated by ecommerce shows no signs of slowing down as we approach BFCM.

Undoubtedly, consumers will be willing to get creative when it comes to getting their items in a timely manner, especially as supply chain and logistics systems become strained. Retailers who offer flexible options will win, and communicating the purchase and pick-up options for your stores frequently and clearly can help you gain major gains over competitors.

To get there, add this information clearly on your website, add it to email communications, and don’t forget to automate this question on your chat and messaging apps. In fact, you can have BOPIS and curbside pick-up information as part of your welcome message on Facebook Messenger, Web Chat and more.

It hasn’t been an easy year for support and service teams. Getting bogged down with constant “where’s my order” questions has taken time and attention away from proactive projects. Our clients at Fody Foods put it best in this recent case study:

We have saved about 30% of our support time allocation each week by automating this element of our customer support, which has allowed us to focus more on proactive marketing activities.

Not only can automating your order tracking inquiries free your team constant order tracking issues, having proactive, always-on answers for your customers can significantly boost customer satisfaction. Take a look at these stats if you still need some convincing:

-75% of shoppers say clear communication is key to a good delivery experience
-51% of shoppers want real-time visibility into the status of their orders

With order tracking automation via messaging, you can provide clear communication and ongoing order status updates at all hours of the day – without forcing your team to burn the midnight oil.

Beyond order tracking, automating FAQs across all of your customer messaging channels not only helps your support team stay afloat – it provides a significant competitive advantage for your brand. Immediacy continues to be an expectation for consumers everywhere, so giving instantaneous responses to questions like, “what time do you open?” and “do you sell gift cards?” and “do you have a promo code for BFCM?” is critical. By automating answers to these questions via an AI chatbot, you free even more of your support and sales team’s time to focus on high-value interactions and loyal customers.

Pro Tip: 
Follow the 80/20 rule when deciding what FAQs to automate: 20% of your questions likely take up 80% of your time. See what those 10 inquiries are, add them to your FAQs section on your website, and automate answers via your AI chatbot. 

As Shopify’s research illustrated, consumers are finding ways to experience the brands they love online. For retailers, opting for virtual consultations, especially for the purchase of big-ticket items like luxury apparel, furniture and sporting goods, this is key. For retailers dealing with limited capacity restrictions, offering an appointment booking service through providers like Booxi will help mitigate long lines, while giving your customers a more positive shopping experience.

Pro Tip: Look to beauty brands such as MAKE UP FOR EVER to see how you can build a digital foundation that puts video consultations and virtual customer education at the forefront. 

Back to the main teachings of 2020: while firm plans might be impossible, making magic happen through the right partners, software and tech stack is. We highly recommend taking a look at Shopify’s collections on the app store (yes, we’re there!) and available for download immediately.

So what’s next?

Making quick adjustments today can have a major impact on what happens before, during and after the BFCM and holiday rush. From the above checklist, identify what’s most relevant for your business, see what you can implement quickly and effectively, and remember that the right partners can help you reach your goals and stay on track — even in the most unusual BFCM. 

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